Michael Jackson

mowtown25moonwalk

Tonight at dinner I was trying to explain to my 20-year-old sister-in-law why Michael Jackson was, once upon a time, the coolest man on the planet. Having grown up with freaky Jacko—the Pez-dispenser nosed white man with a pet monkey and a dangling baby—it was sorta impossible for her to fully understand.

Then I realized the one thing I could show her. In 1983, Jackson performed live on a televised special called The Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. I was 11 at the time, and I still remember sitting in front of my TV, absolutely mesmerized. Sure, he was lip synching. But the dancing … insane. I mean, unlike anything I had ever seen. Watch the below clip from that event. But, if your time is short, just jump to 3:40. And keep in mind, nobody had ever Moonwalked before …

I loved Michael Jackson. Loved him. Not his later craziness, obviously, but his music and dancing. In my post-Beatles existence, there have been tons of icons (Madonna, U2, Men Without Hats), but Jackson was in a completely different stratosphere. First off, he could sing like a motherfucker. I mean, the guy could really, really belt. Just take a listen to Smooth Criminal—an excellent song, sure, but one he singlehandedly blows the top off of. Jackson’s voice was always unappreciated, because a) it was hard to classify; b) there were so many real-world distractions. But who was more recognizable with a single note? Answer: Nobody.
I’m quite certain 70 percent of Americans will remember Jackson first and foremost as a circus freak, which depresses me to no end. If anything, he should go down as the greatest cautionary tale for every parent who insists on turning his kid into the next Usher; the next LeBron; the next Brad Pitt. I always found it telling that Jackson was robbed of his childhood; that he never had a chance to be a normal boy running around the block throwing a baseball or eating Ho-Hos or mackin’ on girls. He was a part of the celebrity whirlwind beginning at age 11—and the end product was a weird, guarded, sad man with a hollow existence and, apparently, few friends.

But, alas, such is life. Come today, I choose to remember Michael Jackson as the 25-year-old man moonwalking across the stage, greatness shadowing each move

PS: Love this song. An underrated beaut from a forgettable whale-loves-human flick.

4 thoughts on “Michael Jackson”

  1. I could not have said it better I was a big fan even bought a thriller leather jacket – he once was “the bomb” before he became a bomb. With all the money he had I truly believe he was never happy. May he Rest in Peace – finally after all his heartache over the last few years.

  2. thanks again for the great stuff, jeff. your blog is required reading for me each and every day. i could not agree more with your stuff about mj: he WAS the coolest guy on the planet back in 83 and 84. i was a freshman in college in 84 and EVERYBODY had a copy of thriller and played it nonstop. i will cherish those memories, not the ones of the later, tortured person mj became. it is all so sad, and folks who revel in the weirdness are completely twisted. thanks again for putting some perspective on the issues of the day.

    best
    joe s

  3. Very well-said Jeff. I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s a little odd to think that some of the younger generation doesn’t realize what a great genius he was…. I don’t think we’ll ever see such a combination of vocals and dance moves. Ever.

  4. I remember this show vividly. I was blown away by the Moonwalk, until Johnny Carson went on the Tonight Show a few nights later and said it was actually a dance kids would do in the 40’s. He then proceeded to bust out a perfect version of the Moonwalk during his monologue.

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